SOAS University of London

Japan Research Centre

Making sense of the Japanese countryside

IMG - 20150311 - Volker Elis
Dr Volker Elis (University of Cologne)

Date: 11 March 2015Time: 5:05 PM

Finishes: 11 March 2015Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: Khalili Lecture Theatre

Type of Event: Seminar


This paper focusses on examining the contested ‘cognitive scenarios’ (species of space) shaping the future of the Japanese countryside. The socio-economic impact of a declining and ageing population has become a rather trendy topic and is receiving much attention, but the repercussions of these developments on the social representation of the rural population have been somewhat neglected. However, it has to be stressed that shifts in the perceptions of rural dwellers can have a substantial impact on the development of rural landscapes and lifestyles.
It is argued that a major transition took place around the beginning of the 1990s that changed the modes of production and consumption molding the way the countryside is socially constructed. This change is most apparent in the peripheral areas most affected by demographic change. While scenarios like agrarian productivism and the image of the rural idyll formed the principle background for life in Japan’s rural areas before the post-productivist transition, a search has begun for new forms of rural coherence transcending the outdated paradigms including new options like the alternative or radical countryside.

Speaker Biography

Volker Elis received his PhD from the University of Bonn in 2004 with a dissertation on regional economic policy in Japan and is currently a lecturer at the University of Cologne. Since 2001 he has taught mostly on the economy, geography, and society of Japan at the Universities of Dusseldorf, Bonn, Tubingen, and Cologne. From 2006 to 2011 he was employed as a senior research fellow at the German Institute for Japanese Studies in Tokyo and pursued a major research project on the impact of demographic change on rural municipalities in Japan. His main research interests are Japan’s political economy, rural geography, and the social and economic history of Modern Japan.

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